The 2023 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which took place in New Orleans on June 13-14, has come to a close—but the decisions made during the meeting will have an ongoing impact. Among the most significant events from the week were those pertaining to women in church leadership.
What follows are highlights from the annual meeting of the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
Southern Baptist Convention 2023 Annual Meeting
‘Shame on Me’—Rick Warren Apologizes to Christian Women Leading Up to Saddleback’s Appeal at the Annual Meeting
One of the biggest news items from this week was Saddleback Church’s decision to appeal being kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention for ordaining female pastors. Because of that decision to ordain women, the Executive Committee (EC) of the SBC ruled in February that Saddleback was not “in friendly cooperation” with the Convention. The church appealed the decision prior to the meeting, where founding pastor Rick Warren had an opportunity to defend Saddleback’s decision.
Warren posted extensively online in the weeks leading up to the meeting, presenting arguments as to why Saddleback should be allowed to remain in the denomination. He even apologized to Christian women for holding “them back from using the spiritual gifts and leadership skills that the Holy Spirit had sovereignly placed in them.”
On Monday, June 12, the SBC Executive Committee decided to give messengers (i.e., local church delegates) the opportunity to vote on whether to amend the SBC constitution to include a permanent ban on female pastors. The amendment was introduced by Virginia pastor Mike Law at the 2022 annual meeting in Anaheim, California.
The SBC’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BFM), already takes a position on this issue, saying, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Several members of the EC voiced concern Monday over adding a statement about women’s roles to the constitution and said they believed including the SBC’s position in the BFM is sufficient. The EC nevertheless decided to bring Law’s amendment to messengers “while also expressing our opposition to the suggested amendment.”
‘Theological Transgenderism’—SBC Presidential Candidate Mike Stone Preaches on Female Submission to Male Authority Ahead of Annual Meeting
Other significant news of the meeting in New Orleans concerned the SBC presidential race that took place between two candidates who represent different views, most notably on how the Convention should address sexual abuse. Incumbent president Bart Barber ran against Mike Stone Tuesday, the first day of the meeting.
The Sunday before the annual meeting took place, Stone preached a sermon addressing the problems he sees in the denomination. During his sermon, Stone said that those who support women serving as pastors are supporting “theological transgenderism,” and he specifically called out Rick Warren, former SBC president J.D. Greear, and Bible teacher Beth Moore (the latter of whom left the SBC in 2021).
Paul Chitwood Addresses Missionary Vaccine Requirement: We Would Have ‘Lost Access to More Than 2 Billion Lost Souls’
Messengers heard a report from the International Mission Board (IMB) on Tuesday morning. During that report, IMB president Paul Chitwood responded to a question from a messenger, who asked if Chitwood would like to apologize for mandating that SBC missionaries get the COVID-19 vaccine. The messenger further asked if IMB would reimburse missionaries who suffered long-term medical effects as a result of getting the shot.